Three dead in Russian army helicopter crash in Chechnya

A Russian military helicopter crashed Saturday during a landing attempt in bad weather in Chechnya, killing three people, investigators and news agencies said.

The Mi-8 helicopter belonged to a military base in nearby Stavropol region and crashed as it was attempting to land at Khankala military airfield in the restive North Caucasus region.

"As a result, three members of the crew died on the spot (and) one was hospitalised with a head wound, broken leg, and multiple bruises," Russia's Investigative Committee said in a statement.

"The helicopter is almost entirely destroyed," it said.

Russian agencies also quoted a security source as saying that the landing had apparently failed because of adverse weather conditions.

"The helicopter descended in conditions of poor visibility, and hit the ground, three out of four people on board died," the source said.

Mi-8 is a multifunctional Russian helicopter that can also be armed.

Chechnya has been ravaged by two back-to-back wars since 1994 between Russia's army and increasingly Islamist-leaning separatist rebels.

The mountainous region still sees occasional fighting.

Russian forces said they clashed Saturday with 15 heavily armed rebels along the border between Chechnya and the also-volatile Ingushetia region.

Seven rebels died in the fighting, which was mainly carried out with rocket launchers and assault rifles, according to Russia's National Anti-Terrorist Committee, cited by the RIA Novosti news agency.

by Mohamad Ali Harissi and Salam Faraj © 2013 AFP

Source: AFP
Date: Mar 16, 2013